I have been a daughter of Alabama pines, the eldest girl descended from eldest girls, the boss of the woods and the house. I have been the inheritor of family history, and I know the morals to all the stories. I am big sister, the one who hears, takes the stories and loads them on her back. Some call this roll sin eater.
I have been known to say, “come unto me,” and then people would could. Imagine me saying this as a little girl, messy nest of hair. I wanted hear your story and take you in like a precious egg to balance on my head. Maybe this is a recipe for a childhood illness of anxiety, why sometimes I think I need strong medicine.
Maybe this is my calling, too, to be a burden bearer, but I confuse it too often. I hear the phone ring and answer it like a syphon, to pull story out of you like a needle to a splinter. Whether or not it helps for me to bear it, I will suffer for you. I’ve spent 35 years making this my false identity.
Maybe it’s true that I want to look at your life closer and closer so I can help you through, but also so I won’t have to look at my own. We are woven in together, but let’s look mostly at you. I’ll tie you back in. If we look long at me, you’ll see how frayed up I am, unraveled from the rest, nest of sorrow.
Everyone with a false identity is bound to unravel. Sometimes I act like the world will fall apart without me, so I carry sorrow like a knot that holds the whole world together.
Recently a loved one wept into my arms. I thought for a minute about piling it on, tying it all on my back. I tried hard, but I wasn’t strong enough. The nest on my head slipped down a little, untangling. I had to decide in that moment: what do I have to offer here? I cannot help here if I try to hold up beneath the burden. I cannot help here if I carry off with the pain and think it won’t affect my marriage and how I respond to my children.
What do I have to offer? Does the buck stop here? Do I hold it all together, or am I called to be an avenue of release?
There’s a fine line for me between knowing my calling to be a burden bearer and becoming a narcissist who thinks the world will stop spinning without me. Oh, really I don’t think the world will stop. But maybe I do think that folks will go to hell or that sin will overtake my children or that others will wander life like aimless feathers. Is there a more immature or short-sighted thought, to think the world rests on my shoulders?
This is when things fall apart, as they should, because the heavy mess on my head was never meant to be carried by me. The world really isn’t on my shoulders, and it’s not on yours either.
I am 35 years old, and some things have had to fall apart for me to grow up. I thought that growing up means holding it all together, but I’m seeing now that it’s really only a great ability to let go. I hold my hands open, and things flow through: the giving, the taking away. This is peace.
I would say that “release” is my word for the year, and it is, but so are the words intimacy, student of stillness. So are the words eagle and rest and kingdom and come. I am writing these things down so I can heal. Believers are made the great Releasers.
Grow up with me, church. I opened my hands, and I was no longer daughter of woods. I became daughter of a king, but I am no longer a child.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a [wo]man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)